Syria's Assad says awaiting 'action' after Kerry comments
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
A picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) is seen during the 'Syria, on the outskirts of Dawn' photo exhibition, marking the fourth anniversary of the Syrian crisis, at the Opera house in Damascus March 15, 2015. REUTERS PhotoSyrian President Bashar al-Assad said March 16 he was waiting for US "actions" after Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged talks with Damascus were necessary to end the country's conflict.
"We are still listening to the comments and we have to wait for the actions and then we'll decide," Assad told Iranian television in comments in Damascus broadcast on Syrian state television.
The comments were the first since Kerry said in an interview aired on Sunday that Washington would be willing to talk to Assad.
"Well, we have to negotiate in the end," Kerry said, when asked by CBS television if he would negotiate with the Syrian leader.
Kerry's spokeswoman later stressed that the comments indicated no change in US policy, saying "there is no future for a brutal dictator like Assad in Syria."
But Syrian media touted the statement as a reversal in US policy that acknowledged Assad's "legitimacy".
In his brief comments, Assad said any real change in the international community's policy on Syria would require ending "political support of terrorists," a charge his government regularly levels against backers of the Syrian opposition.
"We have no choice but to defend our country," Assad added.
"Any international changes that come about within that framework are something positive, if they are honest and have an effect on the ground."
More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011.
It spiralled into a civil war after a government crackdown on demonstrators.